Monday, October 04, 2010

McSweeney's Second Annual Columnist Contest - I didn't win

Ah, not winning happens.

My first ever blog post here was on May 12, 2006. It was an essay that I wrote for a Vanity Fair contest that I didn't win. Well, some things never change. Below is a column I wrote for McSweeney's about the newfound predicament of living in my mom's basement.

Missives from Mom’s basement

A brief description:

After living in New York City as a writer for five years, Colin St. John, 27, decided he had had enough of the Big Apple and would move back to his hometown of Denver,Colorado. He conveniently forgot that after blowing all of his paltry savings on a three-month-long road-trip that he would be moving home quite literally.

One full example column:

Column #1: Upon the sharing of meals

She just walked past me chewing with her mouth open. That kills me every time.

Let me say, right off the bat, that my mom is great. She is generous, loving, gregarious, and on and on. But, she is 59 years old, a nonstop spark-plug with a serious work ethic, always smiling, a woman…lots of things I am not. Also, she has taken the day-one joke that I made to call each other “roommate” way too far and I don’t think she has called me “Colin,” “son” or “you” in at least three months.

Let me also say that I know thinking your mom is great is not a feeling solely held by me. It’s just that my mom is better than all of your moms. Now that I have said that, hopefully she will not kick me out of this basement.

And she chews with her mouth open. It’s the way she chews, too. Sometimes I get so annoyed by the way she eats that my dizzying infuriation makes it seem like her mouth is moving in slow motion. Kind of like that “Forever” scene The Sandlot but with cookie crumbs coming out of the sides.

It’s the type of anger that can only be reserved for someone you spend most of your time with: many of my peers may find themselves clenching their teeth when their girlfriend tucks in a sheet a particular way or wife wipes their kid’s ice cream stain up with her spit. Perhaps an indication of my relative maturity level, I get upset when my mom doesn’t close her lips.

But, open orifices aren’t really our biggest problems when it comes to meals. It’s become the nightly Achilles heel in our recent relationship. As of late, we have been embattled in a meat war. It started with some graying beef kabobs and moved on to some overly-marbled lamb that she said we couldn’t grill because it was made “for a stew.” If anyone ever says meat is made “for a stew,” that meat is shitty meat.

Because of these egregious transgressions, I forbade her this past weekend from purchasing the protein for the household from now on. The last straw came from some on-sale deli turkey that had little, clear fat windows throughout like a budget fromage de tĂȘte. (New York City has its problems but having Boars Head available on every corner is not one of them.)

The overarching issue is that often I try to eat “healthy” (or, I guess it should be “healthily” for Manual of Style folks); she does not.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Penny St. John likes to eat, and to cook, prototypical Midwestern meals. She likes meatloaf, pasta and chili. Go-to eating out or ordering in can fall into one of the following categories:

1) Pizza: Let me tell you, Papa John’s possesses neither better ingredients nor better pizza
2) Cheese-covered Tex-Mex: I guess there isn’t ‘Rado-Mex
3) Cheese: Preferably school-bus-yellow block cheddar
4) Chinese: She gets the moo shu chicken now instead of pork because “it’s good” for her

So, it ain’t exactly the South Beach Diet. (The fact that that is the most recent diet trend I can recall should say something.) And, I’m a big guy—certainly not going to be starring in any Bowflex commercials anytime soon. It’s just that if I want to have, say, sushi or anything not pipelined in from Wisconsin, it’s not going to happen.

I suppose it doesn’t help that I am poor as shit and depend on my mother for many of my meals at the age of twenty-seven. It’s a high school redux down here, with Jimi Hendrix posters, a twin bed and forgotten 30-waist Dockers making my almost ten years in Boston and New York City seem like a hallucination or needless interlude. Kind of like this entire paragraph.)

I viewed our nights home together as an opportunity to explore some new culinary territory, but it really hasn’t happened. (My mother, understandably, is probably still recovering from twenty years of my father—who now lives in Chicago—being the food critic in Denver and making us eat Ethiopian four nights in a given week.) I guess the most important thing is that even if our frequent meals together now haven’t been what I expected—even if they are exactly what I should have expected—our conversations have been just swell. Maybe that’s because, unlike the overarching cinematic scholar agreement that The Sandlot is a top-ten-of-all-time film, we know this isn’t going to last forever.